Below is the transcript from the official NCAA press conference with JMU head coach Matt Brady and players Devon Moore and A.J. Davis on the eve of the Dukes' first tournament appearance since 1994.
THE MODERATOR: We're now joined by James Madison student‑athletes Devon Moore and A.J. Davis.
Q. Kind of the 500‑pound gorilla obviously in the room is Rayshawn Goins. How will that affect you not having him?
DEVON MOORE: It's definitely going to affect us because we play through him. So it's going to be hard for the first half not having him, but coach has drawn up a good game plan for us. We're definitely going to try to stick to it.
Q. Not having the experience of being in the tournament before, what is this like for you guys? Do you expect that tomorrow night there will be some nerves or more excitement? How do you feel about that?
A.J. DAVIS: Of course we'll have nerves our first time here, but coach is telling us to be humble and just play within ourselves like we've been doing all year. So we should be good.
Q. How big a deal is it for two guys from Ohio to return to Ohio? I realize you played here earlier this year, but just be an hour away from where you grew up.
A.J. DAVIS: It's a lot of emotion going into this game being back home. A lot of family and friends going to be here.
Once again, we're just going to be confident, do what we do and doing all year, just playing confident within ourselves.
DEVON MOORE: It's definitely going to be a blessing just to see family and friends and then just being able to be close and trying to definitely win a game.
We definitely want to stay here. That's something that we're trying to do so our family that can't drive six hours to Harrisonburg to see us could see a couple of games.
Q. Is losing a player ‑‑ you obviously lost players during the season to injury or whatever. Is this somehow different because of how bright the lights are that you're playing in?
DEVON MOORE: Definitely. Not knowing if Ray can play or whatever, it's definitely going to be hard. I think our young guys and the rest of our supporting cast has been helping us get to this point, and I think they're going to be nervous, but at the same time, we've been doing it all year.
Injuries have definitely took a toll on us. So I think next guy, whoever is ready to step up, is definitely going to do that, help us out.
THE MODERATOR: Devon and A.J., thank you for your time.
We are joined by James Madison head coach, Matt Brady.
COACH BRADY: The NCAA Tournament, we're really excited to be here in Dayton, Ohio, and we are eager to get started here with our First Round game.
Hopefully we'll play great basketball. I had the opportunity to move forward. It's always the dream of a program ‑‑ a coach of a program that you could take the team to the NCAA Tournament. I couldn't be prouder of the group that we have that really faced a number of opportunities worth of adversity, and we had a great weekend last weekend in Richmond, won the CAA title, and now here we are in Dayton and glad to be here.
Q. Matt, coming from the CAA where there were so many close games and not a lot of difference between you and the teams you were playing against, you played in so many games where, if you're lost, you're gone. How is that going to help you going into this?
COACH BRADY: We played in nothing but close games for the most part, really from the middle of January on. I think, when you're in close games, it's critical that you have good guard play, number one, and that you can make free throws, and we did ‑‑ I think we did both of those things well.
We have a senior point guard in Devon Moore, who's had a great freshman year, and really in the intervening three years, had a lot of injuries, and now as a senior had his second season in five that he's been healthy. We always felt that he could be our league's best point guard, and arguably he is, and he's played really good basketball.
So we have a senior leader point guard that's helped us, and I think we have a team that can make free throws. I think the other part of it is that we've gotten better defensively as a team, and we led our league in scoring defense this year, and near the top in field goal percentage defense. Those kinds of statistics, I think, help you win close games.
Q. Matt, how important is pace in tomorrow night's game?
COACH BRADY: I think it's the single biggest factor in this game, as I thought it was in our championship game against Northeastern. We played William and Mary and Delaware in the quarters and the semis, and it wasn't as critical as I thought that the Northeastern game was.
This is very similar to me as Northeastern, I think figuring out what the pace is and making sure you make really good decisions. Obviously, LIU is one of the leanest scoring teams in the country, and they would prefer to have this game in the high 80s. We're not equipped to do that just yet. My young guys are not as good of shooters as they will be a year from now, when they'll be able to get in the gym in the off‑season. So we're playing against a team that's really fast with really good athletes that can shoot.
We think it's really important that our defense makes this game go deeper into possessions than maybe they might be comfortable with.
Q. How do you minimize the effect, obviously, of losing one of your top players, at least for a half?
COACH BRADY: We play a lot of basketball without Rayshawn. We've gone small an awful lot this year. We had a really good player in Andrey Semenov, one of the best pick‑and‑pop men in basketball. About the middle of January, we knew he wasn't coming back. A.J. Davis kind of emerged as one of the league's best talents. When A.J. emerged, we figured we would play small a lot. So we played small a lot because we felt we needed to defensively match up with some teams in our league, and a lot of those times we would take Rayshawn out of the game.
We won a game without Rayshawn playing small, due to an injury, and we played a lot, including the Northeastern game, where we played small. We took Ray out for a long stretch of the championship game, and we played really well without him.
Q. Just a follow‑up. You just lose a player to injury, just because of everything else that goes along with it?
COACH BRADY: My take on that is we faced a lot of adversity. We had 14 different changing lineups, and I'm a guy that doesn't like to change the starting lineup. So we faced our share of adversity this season.
It's just a blip on the radar screen. We're not going to let it impact our team, our performance, certainly our mindset. It will impact who's on the court certainly the first 20 minutes. But no matter how we play, it's not going to impact our team. We're going to try to play our best basketball.
Q. Matt, are you worried at all that, when Goins comes in the game the second half tomorrow night, that he kind of overextends himself, tries to do too much to try to make up for the fact that he wasn't playing in the first half?
COACH BRADY: That seems to be a natural thought process, right? We thought about it as a staff, and I already talked to Ray about it. We played three games in the CAA Tournament, so six halves. He had two great halves, the other four halves he was just okay. He's a very talented young guy and didn't have a great February.
He was really terrific the first few months of the year, wasn't quite as strong in the month of February, and that's one of the reasons why we went small.
And what my team knows is we're going to play the five guys, whether a freshman ‑‑ I've had a lineup out there where we played four freshmen and won games doing that.
So I've kind of shortened the rotation in terms of our freshmen playing that many minutes, but I have already talked to Ray about just do what you do to help us win. He knows that, should we win, he'll get another game in the NCAA Tournament. I think the spotlight becomes bigger.
It's certainly advantageous for James Madison and the community that we win the game. I don't think he's going to try to put too much undue pressure on himself. He's a very likable young guy. I think he's been very coachable. I think he'll do what's right for his teammates.
Q. Are you concerned at all that your players might be a little wide eyed because they haven't been on this stage where LIU Brooklyn has?
COACH BRADY: If there's a tangible and the intangible, I think we just covered it. I think the tangible is tempo, and the intangible is we're playing a team that's got great experience.
Most of their players that are starting have been here for the third straight year. I'm actually more concerned about the experience factor than I am the tangible part of tempo and pace. I do think they have an advantage being here on the stage.
We do have seniors, and we have really good seniors. They're excited to be here, both the message I've delivered all week, especially since Selection Sunday, is we're not just here to play one game. We are here to represent the CAA, our university, and really our basketball program. The best way to do that is to win, to win with humility, and try and move on.
Q. Do you have any questions about the suspension? Has it been a distraction, taking away from ‑‑ or talking about that rather than your players being able to come here and have this experience?
COACH BRADY: This is what I'd say about that. We've gone through a number of different changes. I mentioned a couple of them already. This is a team that has been resilient. Our leader, Devon Moore, has been going through a situation with his mother at home that has been a burdensome affair for him and our team. He's missed a number of practices, and actually part of the CAA Tournament.
We lost a great player in Andrey Semenov. We had a number of guys getting injured. Andre Nation hurt his hand just the other day. He has an issue with his hand. Charles Cooke had a broken hand.
Unfortunately, we're a program that's dealt with adversity. We deal with it every single year. I've told our guys this will not impact our team. We just won't let ‑‑ we've been down this road where just about everybody on our team had to deal with issues, health and otherwise. We're going to try our best to play our best basketball in advance, and we're not making a bigger situation out of this than it is.
THE MODERATOR: Any further questions for Coach Brady?
COACH BRADY: Thank you.
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